When Rabbi Jonatan Markovitch received a phone call from Ruslan, a member of his community, he had no idea of the situation on the other end of the line. Ruslan had lived in Kyiv for 30 years and knows Rabbi Markovitch quite well as the man who serves as a Chabad emissary in the city and the chief rabbi of Kyiv.
Although no longer a young man, Ruslan wanted to join the war to bring peace and quiet to the people of Ukraine. Last summer he joined the army and was sent to fight in several different places. "I was in Chernigov after the Russians fled, and I cleared the area of the mines and bombs they left," says Ruslan.
"Last winter I was sent to the Donbas region to fight at the front line. After a tremendous effort in close combat against the Russian army, we managed to free some areas from the hands of the enemy".
The liberated areas contained mines and explosives, and the soldiers had to risk their lives to clean the areas. "Since I know the area with my eyes closed, I was chosen to lead the soldiers and I helped them clear the area," Ruslan said. "The missiles, mines, and the fact that these areas are forested made the operation extremely dangerous. Many of my friends were evacuated with serious injuries".
After a few months, Ruslan lost a leg to a land mine. Other soldiers rushed to evacuate him to hospital care. Ruslan was rescued and taken to the hospital where he is suffering from serious injuries to his head and back.
When Rabbi Markovitch came to visit him for the first time at the hospital and saw Ruslan with no leg, he helped Ruslan review Hagomel - the traditional Jewish prayer thanking God for having survived a life-threatening situation.
"It was an exciting moment" Rabbi Markowitz commented. "Ruslan is a heroic Jew who gave his life to protect his homeland, his family, and his brothers. He donned tefilin, the scrolls traditionally worn by Jewish men during prayer, and, he thanked God for being able to return to his family and allowing him to survive".
The Chabad community center in Kyiv is in contact with many soldiers serving on the front lines of the war, giving them moral support and taking care of their needs, and also of their spiritual needs. Every holiday eve, the soldiers receive deliveries of kosher food, tefillin, prayer books, and any othe
r Jewish need